I was somewhat taken aback with the change in tone by the Monroe Doctrine Author (MDA) in his last post that was written in response to me. So, I needed time to walk away and then come back to our discussion. Let me start by responding and clarifying a small amount before we get into the second hypothetical.
While MDA claims that I made a “pedantic” statement concerning the nature of the sacraments, it clearly is not a point of minutia to me, and thereby we can see a fairly large point of departure. What I have tried to do is to pin down exactly what it is that is the nature of a sacrament in the Presbyterian world, and it still seems elusive to me. Where I am accused in finding “virtue in confusion” is in actual fact my attempts at clearing my own confusion on the issue, a point that I am no further along than I was three months ago.
What I have attempted to do in my own posts is to point to a decided difference in ecclesiology that is reflected in the practices of the two churches. Since the sacraments are marks of the church in both systems, it stood to reason that these issues needed to be sorted prior to tackling the Presbyterian third mark. I have failed utterly in making my own points clear as instead I have been characterized as a champion of confusion. Therefore, let me make my own points clear once more.
Baptism in the Anglican world is not the same as in the Lutheran world. “The reformed understanding is that there should neither be confusion (as with Rome) nor separation (as in Zwingli) between the sign and the thing signified.” We agree on this point. MDA asserts that I believe in an ex opere relationship of baptism to regeneration, while I have asserted quite differently. His assertion is consistent with the Lutheran tradition, and I have stated that this is not the Anglican tradition, at least as I understand it. I have tried to make a distinction between the sign and seal of covenant in Baptism with regeneration despite simultaneous occurrence of these events in the elect. This is a distinction that MDA does not seem to recognize in my writing, so I will attempt it again. The example that is useful is the covenant member who is not elect. Baptism brings this person into the covenant community, but no regeneration occurs. This is why this person might be seen to fall away from the church. This example makes plain that the Anglican understanding of baptism is different from the Lutheran understanding. The ontological separation of these events, baptism and regeneration, does not require temporal separation, however. This is an important point, and not at all of minutia.
Similarly, my long dwelling on baptism, ecclesiology and liturgy was in fact to demonstrate a lack of need to fence the table in the Anglican world. I view fencing the table a form of discipline, and in this I may be in error from the mindset of the Presbyterian. But I have not been explicitly told so as of this writing, and it may be that this is accurate in certain circumstances, but not in others.
The question that I have left on the table was basically this: what is the nature of the Presbyterian meaning of “pneumatic presence” in the Lord’s Supper as it is clearly different from that meant by the Anglicans, though I have not been able to articulate either side with sufficient clarity to further the discussion. Perhaps MDA will finally take up this point.
Now, moving on the MDA response to the second hypothetical, I would start with this statement. I chose a particular sin knowing it was difficult. MDA answered the particular question very well, but not the spirit of the question. In directing an appropriate next step in our discussion, I would ask MDA to change the habitual sin to any other one he chooses, so long as it requires the formal discipline process within the church. This will best give MDA an opportunity to forward his view of the discipline process as he understands it.
Remembering that we are both brothers in Christ Jesus, I put the ball back into your court, sir.